Tactics and Tools

Respect and Tolerance

Author Greg Koukl Published on 02/27/2013

When someone raises an objection to Christians evangelizing others using the respect issue, the phrase “respecting others” is a term of art in the relativistic system of things. Read how Greg responds when confronted with this issue.

I recently had a conversation with a young lady who was distressed about something that I said after a talk I gave about being a good ambassador.

In that talk, I have a section where I relate a conversation that I had with a hippy back in 1974.

I use the word “hippy” nostalgically because, as I said, everybody during that time here in Southern California was a hippy. Some hippies had religion, and those hippies with religion were called “Jesus Freaks.” And that was me. We all had long hair, even me, which is hard to imagine now.

But I had talked about how I had really been unkind in the way that I communicated my convictions to this hippy back in 1974, and I have since reformed my ways, more or less. That was the point of the illustration. But I was clearly saying that the hippy’s rejection of Jesus was a mistake, and that his contrary view to mine was wrong, which was why I was evangelizing him.

The young lady who came up to me introduced herself as Shannon. I noticed a pendant hanging from her neck. It was a triangle, like a pyramid, and it had some scrollwork in it. Afterward, I found the same symbol on the Internet, and learned that it relates to Gaia and occultic issues. She introduced herself as a hippy, who shared similar ideas as this person in my illustration She wasn’t nasty or mean, but she began to explain rather matter-of-factly that she believed in respecting other people, and this was the concern that she had with Christians.

I immediately said, “I believe in respecting other people, too,” because I wanted her to know that that was part of my value system, too. Butyouneed to know, and I certainly was aware of it in the conversation, that when someone raises an objection to Christians evangelizing others using the respect issue, the phrase “respecting others” is a term of art in the relativistic system of things. What they mean by “respect” is not simply that you accord the person with whom you disagree a significant manner of grace in the process of your disagreement, but that your act of disagreement itself is a violation of respect. For you to say that you are right and they are wrong is itself a violation of relativistic evenhandedness, and is intolerant.

I knew in about 15 seconds exactly what the complaint she was going to raise would be. I was not disappointed. She is willing to respect the views that Christians have about Jesus, God, forgiveness, and being born again. but why won’tweallow her to have her view?

We think her view is mistaken, and we want to persuade her otherwise. But in one sense, we do allow her to have it. That’s not enough for her because she wants us to adopt her own pluralistic, relativistic view towards religion. Her view is, you can have your own convictions, but with regards to other people’s convictions, you should be neutral, and this neutrality is the essence of tolerance.

I think it’s a virtue to be kind to people as a good ambassador, so I chose my words very carefully. I used her first name frequently. I tried to be gentle with my tone of voice. I didn’t interrupt her. I listened carefully. And then I used the Columbo tactic with the Suicide tactic, because there was a problem with her point of view. A practical Suicide was in play. But I wanted to be careful not to sound like “I gotcha,” because that would just have made her angry, and I didn’t want to do that.

So I said, “Okay, I think I understand your point, Shannon. Let me ask you a question. Are you suggesting to me that I should change my approach?”

The correct answer is yes, shewassuggesting. In fact, she was more than suggesting. She was demanding. “It’s just part of fair play. I’m willing to let you have your view. Why aren’t you willing to let me have mine?” She wanted me to change my approach.

Now, at first, she said, “No, I’m not asking for you to change your approach. I’m just...” and then repeated her point, which was to change my approach.

So I asked her the question again..

“Okay, what you want me to do is to change my point of view about communicating my own convictions to other people, and adopt your point of view. How is what you’re doing right now with me any different than what I was doing regarding your point of view and the hippy’s point of view that you are objecting to now?”

She said, “No, no. You don’t understand. I’m not trying to change your point of view. I’m just simply saying that you shouldn’t be telling us what to do. You shouldn’t be acting like we have to believe that we’re wrong and adopt your view, and that you’re the right one. I’m here with my friends. I don’t believe in this stuff. I come because they’re my friends. They’re Christian girls and I’m glad for them. I rejoice for them. Why don’t you rejoice in my view, for me?”

She just covered the same ground again. And I asked the same question again, because the same question applied: “Are you trying to change my point of view here?”

“No, I’m not trying to change your religion.”

I said, “My religion is an evangelistic religion. Jesus left us with The Great Commission. Part of our religious view is that we tell other people, because we think other people need to hear what we have to say. They’re in danger. We’re concerned about them.. So are you telling me not to do what my religion tells me to do?” Once again, the correct answer to that question is yes, she was telling that to me, but she didn’t get it.

And so we started round three. I asked the exact same question, maybe using a few different words, because I wanted her to see that she was trying to change my mind. She was trying to tell me my religious view, taken as a whole, is false, and that I should adopt at least one aspect of her religious view--that is, her take of tolerance and her take of respect, and rejoice with her alternate view, just as she is willing to rejoice with aspects of my alternate view.

This time when I posed the question,, she rolled her eyes, gave a huff, turned on her heel, and walked through the group to grab her friends.. About 20 yards away, she turned around, and glared at me with angry, tearful eyes.

I just want you to notice a couple of things about this encounter. I have said in the past many times, that it is not my goal to make people angry. If I get mad, I lose. If they get mad, I lose. I don’t want to get people defending turf. I’m trying to put a stone in their shoe. But sometimes you cannot avoid it. Sometimes people get mad not at your method, but at your message. And I was not willing to back down from the truth that Jesus Himself spoke and taught His disciples to say after Him. And she never saw that she was doing the very thing that she was telling me not to do. She just didn’t get it.

Notice how she started her conversation. She started her conversation on the subject of respect, yet her response to me when she couldn’t get through to me was completely devoid of respect. As she stomped away, I said to the retreating Shannon, “It was nice talking to you.” And I said it genuinely, not in a sarcastic way. But she didn’t have any such parting amenities for me. She was just angry. Who in the conversation was acting with respect, and who was not?

This happens all the time. The so-called “tolerant” people act in the most intolerant way, even when the Christian who is the “intolerant” one is comporting himself with grace and kindness. When it became clear I was not going to agree with her, she treated me with scorn, hostility, and contempt.

Don’t be surprised when you run into the same thing. This is the face of relativism. Be ready for it.